When we sat down with horror icon John Carpenter to discuss the release of his first album John Carpenter’s Lost Themes we talked about his creative process for composing music. Now, we’ve got more with Carpenter as we discuss the importance of music throughout his life, a potential return to directing and his misunderstood-at-the-time-of-release film, the 1982 classic The Thing.
Fans of Carpenter will remember that he has been creating music for films as far back as Dark Star and Assault on Precinct 13. After Halloween, Carpenter even went on to direct the TV movie Elvis where he first worked with frequent collaborator Kurt Russell. Now that Carpenter and his son Cody have been creating music for a while and the release of his first album is upon us, I ask him if music has always been so important in his life.
“Absolutely,” says Carpenter. “My father was a music professor. He got his degree at Eastman School of Music; he was a violin virtuoso. I grew up with classical music in my household. I learned to play the keyboard, the guitar, and I played around with violin, although I had no talent on the violin. But I’ve always had music in me, but my love, my first love, was cinema.”
Is Carpenter listening to anything new that excites him personally? “Absolutely! I love the work of Hans Zimmer… and Trent Reznor’s been doing some really interesting things, movie soundtracks. So yeah, I pay attention.”
Last year at Beyond Fest in Los Angeles, Carpenter took the stage with Jamie Lee Curtis for a presentation of the 1978 horror classic Halloween. Almost 40 years later, the two still had a wonderful chemistry and appeared to be good friends. On the day I spoke with Carpenter about Lost Themes, it was announced that Curtis would lead the cast of Ryan Murphy‘s upcoming horror/comedy anthology show Scream Queens, a moniker that Jamie Lee has worn throughout her career due in large part to Carpenter. When I tell him about the news breaking, Carpenter facetiously replies, “Oh that’s good! Well, you know, Jamie Lee should give me part of her money!”
When I ask if he’d be interested in directing her in an episode of Scream Queens, he quickly replies, “No! God no, God no, no no no no. I’ll let someone else do that!” I laugh and ask him if that meant there would be no more horror in his future, to which he emphatically told me, “NO! God no, I just want to do something new. I don’t want to go back to nostalgia.” Fair enough, but does he have anything in the works after Lost Themes? The Horror Master reveals, “Well, I’m still making music and if the right movie comes along I’d love to make it, but at this time in my life I’m taking it easy. I’m letting you young people do everything!”
Before I let Carpenter go, I feel compelled to talk to him about one of my favorite movies of all time–his 1982 classic The Thing. While The Thing has become one of the most beloved horror films of the last 50 years, at the time of its release it was panned across the board by critics and horror fans alike. For a person coming to it later, this makes absolutely no sense, but when I bring it up to the director, he remembers the negative reaction very well.
“That’s an understatement. People hated it. It was HATED. Especially by the horror fans.” When I tell Carpenter on my own behalf that makes no sense and is a terrible thing, he replies, “Yeah, it was. It’s funny, I thought that was the best film I’d made but everybody dumped on it. But what can I do about it? I can’t do anything about it now.” I felt the need to take it upon myself to tell him once and for all that The Thing is a masterpiece and a truly remarkable movie, to which Carpenter said enthusiastically, “Thank you very much! I appreciate that.”
John Carpenter’s Lost Themes is available on February 3, 2015 from Sacred Bones Records.